Our society teaches us a lie that can deter us from reaching our full potential. Every day we are fed thousands of different messages from outside influencers. Like the seemingly perfect lives of millennials captured on tiny screens and taking over Instagram, we begin to build a distorted idea of what life really looks like. This is “the happiness myth” and I am breaking it down for you in hopes that you can embrace a new way of thinking and use it to enhance your career and life goals:
“Happiness is the natural state for human beings”
We are people with ever-changing emotions. Advertisers want you to believe that “without this product, you won’t be happy”. This message has been beaten into our brains until we have bought into the idea that happiness is what we should feel more times than not.
This belief can lead people to depression because no matter how hard they try, they will never accomplish the goal of continual happiness. This belief can also effect careers and other important duties. What happens when you encounter a period of monotony that starts to feel familiar instead of intriguing? We feel that something is wrong and go into “fix it” mode in order to create intrigue and regain that feeling of excitement. We become dissatisfied and restless, perhaps fixing something that is perfectly efficient.
“Happiness means feeling good”
The last time you remember feeling frustrated, how long did the feeling last? The last time you felt content or pleasurable, how long did that feeling last? When you stopped feeling frustrated, did you immediately feel joy? Because the definition of happiness is to feel content or pleasure, we can’t expect it to last all the time. Like our many diverse and broad ranges of emotion, happiness is not unique in the fact that it should always be there. It is only one of many. Accepting that happiness is fleeting can help us not to expect it all the time.
Have you ever reached a goal and momentarily celebrated the feeling of accomplishment? The feeling of achievement probably didn’t last long before you were on to your next goal. It’s great to recognize happiness and bask in it; it’s also ok when the feeling goes and is replaced by something else. This is great for career goals and can act as a tool to push you to achieve more and become more efficient.
“If I am not happy, something is wrong”
Again, society often normalizes happy. If you are not happy then you must need antidepressants. We almost unanimously decide that happiness is the natural state and other emotions are bad. Life is a challenge filled with up and downs, we are lucky to feel such different and varying emotions everyday.
If you are not happy, you are probably normal. You are probably like the other 7 billion of us who encounter many different, strong emotions, including happiness.
Coming to terms with the fact that humans shouldn’t constantly feel happy can allow you to work through challenging moments of monotony. When you reach a time in your career that you don’t feel fulfilled, it’s a great time to check in and make new goals; however, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself to expect times like these and recognize them as normal. Don’t make rash decisions out of boredom, fear, or sadness because you feel that you should always be happy. Recognize that happiness, just like these other emotions, is there to enhance life and make it sweeter for just a quick moment.
This post is based on the YouTube video “The Happiness Myth” by Dr. Russ Harris